The most important person in our business is the one many businesses today seem to be forgetting about. Of course, the person I’m talking about is the customer. It appears wherever you go today to purchase anything, you, as the customer, seem to be the last person the business is interested in serving.

Have you been to a store lately where the people behind the counter are much more interested in their upcoming dating arrangements than they are in waiting on the customers in line? Or even worse, when you’re in line for service and someone calls on the phone and the counter person stops everything to respond to the person on the phone.

Now, when I’ve made the effort to drive to a store, park, and go in and wait in line, I expect to be taken care of before someone sitting at home on the sofa with a phone in their hand. These are just a couple of examples of how some companies serve their customers.

Do you like to be served that way? Take a look at how you treat your customers when they approach your business — usually with a phone call. Are they treated like you really want to serve them, or are they treated like you’re doing them a favor to help them? When they call your company, do they get a seemingly endless list of menus to try to determine how to get to the person they want to talk to?


I’ll say it now — I hate phone menus! I mainly hate them because I can never quite find the answer to why I called in their menu system. I guess I’m old-fashioned. When you call our company, anytime, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, you always get a live person. We don’t have any recorded messages and no answering machines. When we are closed, our phones are answered by a live person at our answering service — all night and all weekend.

I still believe people like doing business with people. Real live people. That’s the premise on which we operate the company.

All of the new technical gadgetry may be wonderful, but when it comes to the customer, we deal with people.

One of the reasons we have our employees deal with people is because I like for our customers to tell me how happy they are with the service that a particular employee provided them. A happy customer will tell maybe four or five people that he or she was satisfied. A dissatisfied customer will tell 20 people that he or she is unhappy. Can you afford to have many dissatisfied customers out there? We don’t think so.

We don’t think we can afford to have any dissatisfied customers out there. So basically we do whatever it takes to satisfy them. And you would be surprised that even with that attitude, we don’t find customers trying to take advantage of our willingness to make them happy.

The important aspect is that you must make all of your employees aware of the fact that your customer policy is to satisfy every customer. You must make it the responsibility of the individuals who come in contact with the customers to satisfy the customers.

When I get letters complimenting our company on our performance, they never compliment me. They always compliment the effort that one or more of our employees went to make sure they, the customer, was satisfied.

I encourage you to empower your employees — any and all of them — to satisfy the customer.


Christmas is coming. It’s time to be thinking about Christmas gifts for customers. Here is a “can’t fail.” Make a list today of your best customers. Then purchase a set of glassware (four glasses per box) for each customer. And here is the key: Have the customer’s initial put on the glasses.

Some companies give glassware with a company logo. Would your wife use that if you had a dinner party? Now consider that the glassware has your initial. You would use it proudly, and won’t you remember who gave you the initialed glassware? Of course you will.

We have been doing this for over 30 years, and I can’t overestimate how our customers look forward to receiving each new set of glasses. Many brag about the fact that their bar is stocked with glasses I’ve given them through the years with their initial.

If you aren’t doing something similar to this now and are looking for a new Christmas gift idea, start making your list now. I guarantee you will be satisfied with your results.

Guest columnist Butch Welsch operates Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis, MO. The company does residential replacement, service, and new construction work. Welsch is happy to receive feedback or suggestions by e-mail at

Publication date: 10/07/2002